DES MOINES, IOWA — In May 2009, the U.S. pork industry had just begun to deal with the trade repercussions of the H1N1 influenza outbreak. Mexico was one of the greatest areas of concern, where widespread misinformation about the disease placed consumer demand for U.S. pork in serious jeopardy. Since then, U.S. pork exports have been skyrocketing, thanks to continuous efforts in dealing with this crisis, according to the National Pork Board.

N.P.B. explains the pork industry worked closely with trade and public health officials to educate consumers about H1N1. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.), which is supported in part by the Pork Checkoff, also implemented timely marketing strategies in Mexico, including new recipes and information at the point of sale, to promote U.S. pork to consumers.

As a result, U.S. pork exports not only recovered by mid-summer, they went on to set an all-time annual record in Mexico. The momentum continues in 2010, with pork/pork variety meat exports up another 7% in volume (to 324 million lbs.) and 26% in value (to $258 million) in the first quarter of 2010.

“The January-through-March 2010 numbers are very strong, particularly in light of the economic difficulties Mexico is undergoing,” said Chad Russell, U.S.M.E.F. regional director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic. “This 7% growth for the first quarter of 2010 is even more impressive when you consider that last year pork exports grew 27% for 2009.”

Muscle-cut export growth (primarily hams) has also been significant — up 24% in volume (to more than 221 million lbs.) and 45% in value (to $195 million) over the record pace of 2009. Demand for U.S. pork is proving to be very resilient, even as ham prices increase significantly, Mr. Russell added.

“We track the peso value of U.S. hams, and 2010 prices are costing the Mexicans more for U.S. hams compared to last year. In spite of that, demand is still up 24% from a year ago,” he concluded.